Festivals Of India
The birth of Lord Krishna an incarnation of
Lord Vishnu is celebrated on the eight day (Ashtami) of a lunar
fortnight in August-September hence the name (Krishna +
ashtami). Krishnastami is celebrated over two days. This first
day is Krishnastami or Gokulastami. The second day is called
Kalastami or more popularly Janmastami.
Men and women fast and pray on the occasion of
Janmashtami. As it is the worship of infant Krishna, who was
fond of milk and butter, women prepare a variety of delicacies
with milk products as offerings. This festival is a community
celebration and people visit temples which are specially
decorated for this occasion.
Durga Puja or Navaratri:
This nine-day festival of the Hindus is
celebrated in almost all parts of India in the month of Ashvina,
and is marked by fasting and praying to different aspects of
Devi. Literally 'nine nights', this nine-day period from the new
moon day to the ninth day of Ashvina is considered the most
auspicious time of the Hindu calendar.
It is celebrated as Durga Puja in the state of
West Bengal. Durga Puja is the most important and the most
eagerly awaited festival of the state. It commemorates the
victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasura.
The nine different aspects of Devi are
worshipped over the nine days.
Durga: goddess beyond reach;
Bhadrakali: the auspicious power of time;
Amba or Jagdamba: mother of the world;
Annapurna: giver of food and plenty;
Sarvamangala: auspicious goddess;
Bhairavi: terrible, fearful, power of
Chandika or Chandi: violent, wrathful,
Bhavani: giver of existence.
The festivities culminate on the tenth day on Vijayadashmi
In North India the nine-day period from the
first to the ninth day in the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra is also known as Navaratri and is dedicated to the
worship of nine different aspects of Devi. The ninth day in this
month is also celebrated as Ramanavami.
In Gujarat, this is the time for the joyous Garba and Dandia
dances and people pour out at night to participate in this
In Tamil Nadu, the first three days of the festival are
dedicated to Lakshmi, the next three to Durga and the last three
On the 14th day of the dark
half of Margshirsh month the great night of Shiva is celebrated.
On this day the devotees of Shiva observe fast. According to a
legend once King Bhagiratha left his kingdom to meditate for the
salvation of the souls of his ancestors. He prayed for the holy
River Ganga from heaven to wash over his ancestor's ashes to
release them from a curse and allow them to go to heaven. But
Lord Shiva was the only one who could sustain the weight of her
descent. So he prayed to Lord shiva and Ganga descended on
Shiva's head, and after meandering through his thick matted
locks, reached the earth.
This story is believed to be re-enacted by
bathing the linga. The love of water, the primary element of
life, is also remembered in this ritualistic action. The linga
is bathed with milk, water and honey. It is then anointed with
sandalwood paste. People offer wood apple or bel leaves and
fruit, milk, sandalwood and jujube fruit or ber to the linga.
People decorate the linga with flowers and garlands and also
offer incense sticks and fruit.
The birth anniversary of Lord Rama
is celebrated as Ramanavami in the Hindu month of Chaitra
(March-April). It occurs on the ninth day (navami). The festival
commemorates the birth of Rama who is considered to be Maryada
Purushottam or The Ideal Man. Ramrajya (the reign of Rama) has
become synonymous with a period of peace and prosperity. Mahatma
Gandhi also used this term to describe how, according to him,
India should be after independence. Celebrations begin with a
prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At midday, when Lord
Rama is supposed to have been born, a special prayer is
This is a festival that falls on the brightest
night of Shravan month.Raksha Bandhan stirs up one of the
deepest and noblest emotions - the abiding and chaste bond of
love between the brother and the sister.
On this day sisters tie a rakhi — which may be a colorful
thread, a simple bracelet, or a decorative string — around the
wrist of their brother(s). The word "raksha" signifies
protection, and "bandhan" is an association signifying an
enduring bond; and so, when a woman ties a rakhi around the
wrist of her brother, she signifies her loving attachment to
him. He, likewise, recognizes the special bond between them, and
by extending his wrist forward, he in fact extends the hand of
his protection over her.
The first day of the year according to the
National Calendar of India is significant both for its
historical importance and for the advent of bountiful nature. On
the national plane, the day recalls the inspiring occasion when
the invading Shakas - the barbaric tribal hordes from Central
Asia descending on India like locusts during the 1st century
A.D. - were vanquished by the great emperors Shalivahana and
The day falls in the beginning of spring -
Vasanta Ritu - When the Goddess of Nature gets bedecked as a
divine bride. In some parts of India, the tender leaves of Neem
mixed with jaggery are distributed on the occasion. The Neem,
extremely bitter in taste, and jaggery sweet and delicious,
signify the two conflicting aspects of human life - joy and
sorrow, success and failure, ecstasy and agony. The Neem-jaggery
blend is offered to God as naivedya and then distributed as
prasad. This embodies one of the highest philosophical attitudes
taught by the Hindu spiritual masters.